For Young Believers To Develop An Evangelistic Heart
Mutuality in Early Methodist Evangelistic Leadership
Methodism began as a movement of renewal within the Church of England in the eighteenth century under the direction of John and Charles Wesley.
The Wesleys rediscovered the biblical vision of the church as mission, and their revival elevated the status and role of women by embracing multiple forms of mutuality in ministry. Both men and women provided evangelistic leadership for this missionary movement.
Working together, men and women, both laity and clergy, breathed new life into the church of their day. These early Methodist pioneers have something to teach evangelical Christians of all denominations about mutuality and leadership today.
Small Group Ministries
Early Methodism was primarily a small group movement. The Methodist Societies, as they were called, were divided into smaller cells known as classes and bands. The classes were generally about twelve in number and mixed in terms of gender and marital status.
They also included children and youth. These classes were the heartbeat of the movement. Smaller still were the bands, usually composed of between four and seven members. Un the classes, bands were divided into groups for single men, married men, and married women.
The underlying motive for these divisions was the importance of trust and intimacy and the need to have spiritual fellowship with others who were encountering the same questions and issues in life.In all of these groups, men and women worked closely together to provide leadership for the growing revival.
John Wesley appointed both men and women as leaders of these groups. Profoundly aware of the perils of numerical success, he was determined to maintain close contact with all his followers. The band and class leaders stood nearest to the rank and file of the movement. They occupied a strategic position within the local Societies.
They exerted a powerful influence upon the development of the Methodist institution. Though many assume that the evangelistic preaching of the Wesleys and others brought converts to saving faith, the evidence leads in a different direction. It was in the intimacy of these small groups that the vast majority of men and women found faith in Christ.
This was the primary context for evangelism.
For women, who generally stood on the fringe of social structures and institutions in that day—if they had any place at all—class and band leadership provided opportunities to discover, practice, and develop leadership skills. These positions of trust, authority, and evangelistic leadership often led women into more visible and critical roles within the movement.
Reaching Out to the Lost
Another role shared by men and women a was related to visitation of the sick and imprisoned. This particularly important ministry traced its roots back to the time the Wesley brothers were students at Oxford. Instead of waiting for people in need to come to them, they went to the forgotten, the suffering, and the lonely with a message of hope.
The prison ministries of Sarah Peters and Silas Told are excellent examples of mutuality in evangelistic leadership. Wesley saw that Sarah was especially gifted in caring for the lost and supporting the weak.
While Silas pioneered the work at the notorious Newgate Prison in London, Sarah soon joined on an equal footing in the religious services organized for the inmates there.
They both visited the cells of all the prisoners to pray for them and to provide for the needs of these outcasts.
Public Prayer and Evangelism
Three particular roles, those involving public prayer, testimony, and exhortation, were especially important evangelistic activities in which women flourished as well as men. Each of these practices is grounded in the evangelical urge to “save souls,” but in Wesleyan theology and experience, these were closely linked to social action and service.
While falling short of preaching in a technical sense, activity in these areas of leadership proved to be a training ground for a fuller exposition of the gospel.
Moreover, all of these activities presuppose the enabling presence of the Holy Spirit, and the Methodist pioneers firmly believed that this presence was open to all Christian believers. For many women, such as Isabella Wilson, prayer was their first experience of public leadership.With regard to her evangelistic impulse to pray openly with others, Isabella simply confessed that she was more than willing to be accounted a fool if she might be a means of glorifying God and helping others.
The early Methodists very quickly discovered that women had testimonies and exhortations that were just as moving as the men’s were. The Love-Feast, patterned after the agape meal of the early church, provided a unique opportunity for women to share the struggles and triumphs of their Christian experience in mixed company.
On a visit to a Methodist Society on the eve of its first Love-Feast, Wesley made it clear toall that every man and woman was welcome to join in free and familiar conversation to the glory of God.
Again, Wesley and other leaders were often astounded by the ability of the Holy Spirit to equip the faithful as the
instruments of divine love.
From Prayer to Preaching
Perhaps the most important examples of mutuality in evangelistic leadership were in the areas of preaching and social service. Despite the fact that both Wesley brothers— the vast majority of church leaders in their times—initially opposed women preachers, they experienced an amazing metamorphosis that changed their perspective entirely.
In fact, John Wesley became the strongest advocate of women’s ministry in the eighteenth century. Sarah Crosby was the first woman he authorized to preach the gospel.
Others soon joined the ranks, including Mary Bosanquet, Ann Gilbert, Elizabeth Hurrell, Margaret Davidson, Alice Cambridge, Sarah Mallet, and Mary Taft, one of the greatest evangelists of the early nineteenth century.
During Wesley’s lifetime nearly fifty women were welcomed into the ranks of the Methodist preachers and shaped the egalitarian impulse of the Methodist movement. They were a tangible expression of the biblical prophet Joel’s vision of mutuality in ministry.
Their tremendous gifts and the fruit of their ministry forced contemporaries to reconsider biblical texts once thought to be prohibitive.
The Pauline vision of unity and mutuality in Christ became the key to their understanding of the Christian community and its life.
Leadership in Mission
Since the original vision of the Methodists was missional, it is not surprising that we find women and men working together in ministries of social justice and change.
They understood social action to be as critical an evangelistic ministry as the proclamation of the gospel. It was, in fact, the incarnation of the gospel vision in their very lives.
They offered Christ to others through the activity of their lives as well as the words of their mouths.The work of Mary Bosanquet, in this regard, was remarkable. Born into wealth and affluence, she abandoned her comforts and luxuries to establish an orphanage and school for the most desperate and abandoned of the London poor.
Wesley kept this model Christian community, which combined vibrant personal piety and active social service, under his personal surveillance. Over the course of five years, before moving the community into the north of England, they sheltered and cared for thirty-five children and thirty-four adults.
The orphanage was a beacon of hope, a magnetic force for the gospel, as these Christian women sought to live out their lives in solidarity with the poor.
In all of these ways, the early Methodist people lived out a vision of mutuality in service to Christ and those whom Christ loves. Men and women together offered the good news of the gospel through word and deed. Through these evangelistic/missional activities they reached out, drew in, nurtured, and sent out disciples of Jesus Christ. How does this model of mutuality connect with us today?
Mutuality in Small Group Ministries
Before his death, Henri Nouwen once said that the most desperate cry of people in our world today is our need for intimacy. People yearn for meaningful relationships.
They want to be close with other people, but often do not even know where to begin searching for loving, caring fellowship.
At the same time, Christians are rediscovering the importance of intimacy in small group ministries.
Early Methodism developed a network of “little churches within the church,” in which disciples of Christ were encouraged to share their lives and their stories with one another.
Small groups are a natural place to explore and experience true mutuality as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Intimate circles of Christian fellowship provide a place to nurture gifts, to affirm the value and worth of every human being, and to develop cells of renewal and vision for the larger Christian community.
The Ministry of the Baptized
The early Methodist people believed that all Christians are called into ministry by virtue of their baptism. Baptism is our ordination into the service of Christ in which we all seek to use our gifts for the glory of God.
The early church leader, Irenaeus, once said that “the greatest glory of God is the human creature fully alive.
” As Christians we arecalled to affirm the responsibility of all God’s family to pray, to share our stories of faith, to encourage the down-hearted and down-trodden, and to be ambassadors of hope, grace, and love. This is precisely what the early Methodists did.
There is a great need within the life of the church today for all Christian people to reclaim this privilege and this task. Every Christian is called to be an evangelist, to offer Christ in word and in deed to all of God’s children. This rediscovery will become a reality, I believe, by our affirmation and encouragement of all God’s people.Each of us has the amazing privilege of helping God to restore others, to bring them back to life so that they will live abundantly. We need to help one another discover our giftedness, to celebrate the presence of the Spirit of Christ in each believer, and to proclaim the good news of God’s unconditional love through every imaginable way.
Called to Mission
“Go to the people” is a divine imperative directed to men, women, and children a. The early Methodists had to learn how to reach out to the least, the last, and the lost. It was not something that came naturally to them. They had to rely on the Spirit of God every step of the way.
A very affluent young woman was convertedunder the ministry of John Wesley, but found it extremely humiliating to minister among the poor. But the Methodist founder believed in the transforming power of God.
In a letter to her he challenged her to visit the poor and sick in their own hovels. He invited her to take up her cross and to remember the faith, for Jesus went before her and would go with her.
“Put off the gentlewoman;” he told her, “you bear a higher character.”
Today, as I write, war is destroying lives and stealing away hope, natural disasters have caused untold suffering and loss, the AIDS pandemic wreaks havoc on much of the world, and brothers and sisters in our human family lack the basic necessities of shelter, food, clean water, and education. God invites all—without any concern for gender whatsoever— to respond to the needs we see around us every day. God calls us to be a missional community that lives, not for itself, but for the sake of Christ and God’s world.
Methodist Women Who Spread the Word
Laura Smith Haviland (1808–1898)
Born in Canada and raised Quaker, Laura Smith Haviland and her husband, Charles, converted to Methodism and moved to Michigan, where they lived and worshipped for many years. In 1837, they co-founded the Raisin Institute, one of the first schools in the country to admit black boys and girls.
Laura H aviland also worked as a nurse during the Civil War and organized one of the first stations on the Michigan underground railroad. As Superintendent and Stationmaster, she aided between forty and one hundred thousand slaves, earning a $3,000 reward from anti-abolitionists for her capture.
Throughout her acts of resistance, she was outspoken about her Christian faith and proclaimed freedom for the captives in the name of Christ.
Mary Artemesia Lathbury (1841–1913)
Mary Lathbury grew up in a Methodist minister’s home, learning early on the value of music in expressing faith. She studied and taught art in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York before getting involved with the temperance and Chautauqua educational movements as an author and poet. Below is a hymn she penned specifically for a Chautauqua conference closing worship.
Break Thou the Bread of Life
Break thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,As thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;Beyond the sacred page I seek thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for thee, O living Word.
Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me,Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;Give me to eat and live with thee above;
Teach me to love thy truth, for thou art love.
Oh, send thy Spirit, Lord now unto me,That he may touch my eyes, and make me see;Show me the truth concealed within thy word,
And in thy book revealed I see the Lord.Bless thou the truth, dear Lord, to me,As thou didst bless the bread by Galilee;Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall,
And I shall find my peace, my all in all.
Jarena Lee (1783–1849)
After her conversion to Christianity, Jarena Lee felt a strong call to preach. However, Bishop Allen, to whom she addressed her desire to receive authority to preach, denied her for eight years before experiencing one of her sermons and authorizing her on the spot.
Still, she struggled to pursue her calling against strong opposition, first because she was a woman and second, because she was black.
As an itinerate preacher for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, she traveled from camp meeting to camp meeting, passing out pamphlets her personal narrative, Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee.
8 steps to make your church more evangelistic — Southern Equip
Christians struggle to evangelize unbelievers for the same reason criminals struggle to find policemen—most are not looking for one.
Instead of pursuing others with the gospel, we cocoon ourselves with others who already know it.
Drawing near to Christ will submerse us in believer’s fellowship, but it will also thrust us toward others who are on their way to hell. If our corporate worship doesn’t result in individual evangelism, we’re doing it wrong.
Worship that truly exalts Jesus Christ will always result in gospel proclamation. That is the heart of a centrifugal church, constantly pressing believers into the world as “salt and light” (Matt 5:13-16).
Jesus prescribed our evangelism strategy in simple and direct words, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). If we know enough of the gospel to be saved, we know enough to tell someone else.
The repentant thief hanging no the cross next to Jesus had no problem calling the other thief to believe in Christ. Neither should we. Our problem is not ignorance, our problem is pride. The solution is not information; the solution is action.
Put even simpler, meet unbelievers and talk to them about Jesus. That is evangelism. The Great Commission is an individual responsibility that will not be fulfilled in silence, but in conversations that confront unrighteousness with the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). Here are a few ways to accelerate evangelistic DNA in your church:
1. Spring load the gospel
This isn’t complicated, if you’re saved, you know enough of the gospel to present it to someone else. However, it takes work to be clear and understandable. Memorize the foundational gospel components and key verses.
With those stamped in mind, work daily to recite it and role play with others. You may not always have your Bible in hand when an evangelistic opportunity presents itself, so memorize the message.
Be alert and stay ready!
2. Recruit a prayer team
The hard work of evangelism begins on our knees, petitioning God to work in the hearts of those we pursue.
In humility and dependency, following the example of Paul in praying for others (Rom 10:1) and watch as God answers pray in increased opportunities to proclaim His gospel.
Recruit two or three people to pray for those in your mission field. This invites accountability, conversational ideas and encouragement.
3. Live excellent
Live with integrity. Peter wrote “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet 2:12).
Live so that when our name crosses the mind of unbeliever’s they associate us with Jesus. The most clear and accurate gospel presentation is muted if unbelievers identify us by patterns of sin instead righteousness. In humility, repent when we sin, and use our failures to magnify God’s mercy.
Keep in mind that our example may be the first expose many receive to the transforming power of the gospel.
4. Engage your mission field
Be specific. God in His sovereign grace, placed you alongside unbelievers – in your neighborhood, family and at work. Don’t talk about them, talk with them.
Keep track of where you left off and build with each subsequent conversation. This is your first mission field.
Every unbeliever in our life should both know our identity as a Christian and know our desire to see them come to believe in Christ as Savior and Lord.
5. Create new mission fields
Along the way, create new mission fields, finding new ways to interact with unbelievers.
Talk to your neighbors, frequent the same stores, volunteer at a local school, become a chaplain for a hospital, police department or business, help in a community project, visit a retirement home with your family, have dinner at a rescue mission, go your way to introduce yourself to others, etc. These ideas and more help to create new networks that open up new mission fields for gospel ministry.
Here’s a place to start, take the “two-minute challenge” Give yourself no more than 2 minutes to identify yourself with Christ when meeting someone new! As an ambassador of Christ, be quick to let others know who you represent (2 Cor. 5:20). Say something that lets another know you belong to, have been forgiven by, are loved by, are trusting in God, etc. That way, as your conversations develop, you’ve already identified with Christ right away.
6. Relentlessly love other believers
Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Christian’s biblically loving one another make the love of Christ visible for the world to see.
How are the “one another’s” made visible in our relationships with other believers? Does your love for other believers lend credibility to your gospel presentation?
7. Lead by example
No matter your age, level of responsibility or visibility within the church, you can lead by example. the heart of Paul’s encouragement to timothy is to lead by example despite his youth (1 Tim 4:12).
Some of the greatest evangelists are those whose names we won’t ever know, but were relentlessly faithful to tell others about Jesus.
Don’t wait for someone else to lead by example, take initiative and set the pace as the Spirit works through you.
8. Celebrate salvation
Never lose sight of the miracle that happens in new birth. If heaven explodes in celebration in response to the new birth, so should we. One way to do this is to share testimonies often.
We can never hear enough of the work Christ has done in drawing someone to salvation. Incorporate the recounting of salvation wherever possible.
Doing so reminds us of the many ways the gospel penetrates hearts and how God chooses to use saved sinners in that process.The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he delivered to them “as of first importance what [he] also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3). For you to do faithful evangelism, the gospel must be of first importance to you. Only then will you overcome the challenges that have prevented you from boldly sharing the gospel with unbelievers.
George Whitefield’s Evangelistic Preaching
Around 245 years ago, something significant happened in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA. A large granite stone marks the spot where the event took place. Sad to say, people walk by this historical marker every day without knowing its significance. They do not know that God did something special in their town on September 29, 1770: George Whitefield preached one of his last sermons.
When the people heard Whitefield was going to pass through their town, they begged him to stop and preach to them. The arrangement was for Whitefield to preach inside the church building at Second Parish, but six thousand people came to hear him speak and the event had to take place outdoors.
The size of the crowd should not surprise us; George Whitefield preached to large groups throughout the United Kingdom and America. In his lifetime, Whitefield preached around eighteen thousand sermons to approximately ten million people.
Many considered Whitefield to be one of the greatest preachers in church history. The famous eighteenth-century preacher and author J. C. Ryle made this comment about Whitefield’s preaching: ‘I believe no English preacher has ever possessed such a combination of excellent qualifications as Whitefield.’
Charles Spurgeon has often been called ‘the prince of preachers’. He admired Whitefield and considered him a model to follow, saying about Whitefield’s life and preaching, ‘Other men seemed to be only half alive; but Whitefield was all of life.’
Whitefield preached wherever God opened the door. He made seven trips to America, fifteen trips to Scotland, and two to Ireland. He also made one trip each to Gibraltar, Bermuda, and the Netherlands. There was no doubt about it, the world was Whitefield’s parish.
On September 29, 1770, Whitefield stood before the citizens of Exeter. Some in the crowd could tell that he was sick but they did not know that Whitefield was suffering from a life-threatening case of asthma.
As Whitefield stood before the crowd, someone called out from the audience, ‘You are more fit to go to bed than to preach.’ ‘True sir,’ replied Whitefield, he acknowledged the seriousness of his situation. Whitefield then prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, I am weary in thy work, but not weary of it.
If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for thee once more in the fields, seal thy truth, and come home and die.’
Whitefield stood erect. For several minutes, he struggled to speak. Then he said to the audience, ‘I will wait for the gracious assistance of God.’ Suddenly, the Spirit came upon him and he preached for approximately two hours from 2 Corinthians 5:9, ‘Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faithful.’
Many believe this was one of his best sermons.After preaching at Exeter, Whitefield rode to Newburyport, Massachusetts. Today it takes around thirty minutes to make the seventeen-mile trip by car in heavy traffic. Since he was on horseback and very sick, the trip probably felt hours to him.
In Newburyport, he stayed at the home of Rev. Jonathan Parsons, the pastor of the Old South Church. During dinner, Whitefield excused himself to go to bed. He was exhausted. Suddenly a small group appeared at the manse, asking Whitefield to preach. He did so until the candle in his hand disappeared.
Dallimore describes the situation for us, ‘There he stood, candle in hand, and such was his zeal that he spoke on, heedless of passing time, till the candle finally flickered, burned itself out in its socket and died away.’
Whitefield then went upstairs to bed. He took time to read his Bible and pray, but throughout the night, he struggled to breathe. Finally, around 6am on September 30, 1770, George Whitefield stepped this life and into eternity.
A few days later, about three thousand came to Newburyport for his memorial service. As Whitefield’s request, a crypt was built for his body in the church basement underneath the pulpit. Today you can visit the Old South Church in Newburyport and take a tour, during which you can see the crypt where they laid Whitefield’s body.
There are many things we can learn from Whitefield’s life. Throughout his life, he was a man of integrity and, when facing opposition, he was respectful and kind. But there were two particular elements in his evangelistic preaching which are worth our consideration.
1. Whitefield’s Evangelistic Preaching was God-Centred
Thousands came to hear Whitefield preach, but the purpose of his teaching was not to entertain, or even to draw a crowd. Nor was the purpose of his preaching to make people feel good about themselves. The goal of Whitefield’s preaching was to bring souls to Christ. He preached a God-centred Gospel.
A man-centred Gospel teaches that God’s priority for us is our happiness. You often hear people give this type of invitation to non-believers; ‘Come to Jesus Christ. He will improve your marriage and business.’ In a man-centred Gospel, people tend to present Jesus as a self-help guru.
Indeed, the Gospel changes people’s lives in many positive ways. My deceased friend, Holmes Rhinehart, loved to tell how Jesus Christ changed his life. Before he came to Christ, he was a drug addict and an alcoholic but the Lord Jesus Christ set him free from all his addictions. For this, Holmes Rhinehart was eternally grateful.But a God-centred Gospel has a different focus. The most important thing is not our happiness, the most important thing is our legal standing before God. Since Whitefield understood this truth, he presented both the bad news and the good news.
This is the bad news. Whitefield wanted non-believers to understand that they were sinners, and since they were sinners, they did not have a right legal standing before God. They were law breakers and therefore they deserved God’s wrath and curse (Romans 1:18; 3:11-18; 3:23).
Whitefield was not harsh with the bad news; he had such a concern for souls that he preached at times with tears in his eyes. Jesus, he had compassion on the lost, seeing them as sheep without a Shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Sad to say, we seldom hear of ministers or church members today crying over men’s souls.
Whitefield’s young assistant, Cornelius Winter, made this observation about Whitefield’s preaching:
I hardly knew him to go through a sermon without weeping …and I truly believe his tears were tears of sincerity. And I have heard him say in the pulpit, “You blame me for weeping, but how can I help it when you will not weep for yourselves, though your immortal souls are on the verge of destruction…and you may never more have an opportunity to have Christ offered to you.
Whitefield also preached the good news. He made people aware of God’s grace: God provided the way of salvation through Jesus Christ.
When Jesus was on the cross, he took the punishment for the sins of his people and if we repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ alone for salvation, then we go free from the penalty of sin (Romans 5:1; 8:1; Ephesians 2:8-9).
It is only after we have repented of our sins and trusted Christ for salvation that we have a right legal standing before God.Thus, Whitefield taught what we call the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. He explained this vital doctrine in a language the people understood. He wanted people to realise it was impossible for them to earn their salvation through good works, their only hope was to repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ alone for salvation.
Archibald Alexander in his book Justification by Faith makes this remarkable statement: ‘How shall a man be just with God is surely the most important question which can be possibly conceived.’ Alexander continue, ‘the doctrine of a sinner’s justification in the sight of God is fundamental.’
Therefore, we need to evaluate the evangelistic methods we use today. Whether from the pulpit or in a one to one conversation, we need to make sure that we are giving a God-centred message. We need to make sure non-believers understand their legal standing before God and point them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I share the Gospel with non-believers, I often raise this question to them, ‘Do you see yourself as a sinner, deserving God’s wrath?’ The answer to this question helps me understand if the non-believer understands their legal standing before God and their need for the Gospel.
Remember Jesus gave this invitation to people in Mark 1:15: ‘repent and believe in the Gospel.’ That’s the same invitation we must give to people today. Let’s make sure we proclaim a God-centred Gospel rather than a man-centred Gospel.
2. Whitefield’s Evangelist Preaching was Dependent on God’s Spirit
There is no doubt that God gifted Whitefield with unusual abilities. We make a mistake if we think we can merely reproduce Whitefield’s ministry. We also make a mistake if we believe we can attract a large crowd by trying to discover some secret of success from the past.
But Whitefield understood an important principle. Our ministry must be dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Without the work of the Spirit, a Christian will minister in their strength rather than God’s power.
A Christian who depends upon the work of the Holy Spirit is a praying Christian. If we fail to pray, then we are saying to God, ‘I can do what you called me to do today in my strength. I do not need your help today.’
Steven Lawson gives this description of Whitefield’s prayer life:Whitefield was devoted to God in earnest prayer. Through time spent on his knees, his heart for God was further depended and developed. The secret of his public ministry was not found primarily in his vivid vocabulary, dramatic skills, or Oxford education. The true source of power in his preaching lay far deeper. It was discovered behind closed doors in time alone with God.
If you survey the Book of Acts, then you will discover that the early church was devoted to prayer. Luke uses the church at Jerusalem as an example of this commitment to prayer: ‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, the breaking of bread, fellowship, and the prayers’ (Acts 2:42, emphasis author’s).
The Apostle Paul was a man of prayer, he was in constant prayer for the churches. He told the Philippians in Philippians 1:3-4, ‘I thank my God in my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy’. He also told the Romans in Romans 1:9, ‘that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers’.
The reformers were men of prayer too. Ludwig gave this description of Luther’s prayer life, ‘When it comes to prayer, Luther was not a theoretician, but a practitioner.’ Ludwig then makes this statement, ‘There is not a day on which he does not devote at least three hours [to prayer].’
John Calvin has often been called ‘the theologian of the Holy Spirit’. Calvin was another man of prayer, his standard procedure was to pray through the Psalms. He made the prayers of the Psalmist his own and he combined his study of scripture with prayer.
Gary Neal Hansen in Kneeling with the Giants gives this general description of Calvin’s prayer life, ‘prayer was at the heart of his spiritual life and his theology. For Calvin, prayer is the central thing Christians are called to do, the true expression of authentic faith.’
John Knox was a man of prayer.
In Taking Hold of God, Brian Najapfour gives this description of John Knox’s prayer life, ‘As a pastor, Knox prayed for his congregation, and as a father, he prayed for his family.
He was truly a man of …prayer.’ On one occasion Mary Queen of Scots made this telling statement about John Knox, ‘I fear the prayer of John Knox more than the combined armies of Europe.’While here on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ himself was devoted to prayer. Since Jesus spent time in prayer with the Father, then we should do the same thing. Besides, Jesus said in John 15:5, ‘Apart from me, you can do nothing.’
Christians often complain that the church in the western world has lost its influence but perhaps it is because we are no longer devoted, Whitefield, to prayer. We are more devoted to methods and programs than praying.
I wonder what would happen if churches today enabled their pastors, the Apostles, to practice Acts 6:4, ‘But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ At first, Satan would probably double his efforts against us, but in the end, the churches in the western world would be much stronger.
Whitefield had incredible natural talent, he could have easily relied on his abilities and strength but he understood the need to depend upon the Holy Spirit. He did so by his devotion to prayer.
Frank Lambert made this observation about Whitefield’s preaching. When Whitefield arrived in the New Word in 1739, he changed the scope and character of the colonial evangelical revivals.
Before Whitefield, the revivals were mainly local and within denominational boundaries. But Whitefield’s preaching connected and fashioned the revivals into an inter-colonial movement.
He proclaimed the new birth in every colony through the spoken and printed word.
Whitefield was not a perfect man. He did not follow the advice of his doctors and friends to take better care of his body and some wish he had taken a stronger stand against slavery. But behind his preaching was a man of integrity in his business affairs. When the Wesley brothers publicly attacked his theology, he responded with love.
Whitefield understood what we must never forget today. It is only through Jesus Christ that men receive salvation and it is only through Jesus Christ that men’s lives are changed for the glory of God.
That’s why we need to make sure we proclaim a God-centred Gospel rather than a man-centred Gospel.
We need to make sure non-believers understand their legal standing before God and we need to work to proclaim the Gospel with dependence upon the Holy Spirit through prayer.
Luther stood before church and emperor at Worms and his words cannot be forgotten: ‘Here I stand; I can do no other; God help me.’ Calvin invited an infuriated mob to shed his blood. John Knox rebuffed the queen and her court in Scotland. Courageous actions by courageous men — for courage is one of […] It was sometime in the year that the Lord mercifully saved both of us, that my father said to me, ‘If a person really understood the gospel, I don’t see how he could reject it.’ His point was that if we could just make the gospel absolutely clear, everyone would perforce accept it. Our pastor […]
5 Steps To Creating A Culture of Evangelism In Your Church
It is a sad reality today that many churches are simply not reaching many people for Christ.
No, it’s not all about numbers. Yes, fellowship and discipleship are important. But if we are trying to follow the great commission, why are we not doing more to try to reach more people?
Put simply, I believe it is because we have not created a culture of evangelism in our churches. Somewhere along the way, many churches have lost their evangelistic fervor.
If we want to create a culture of evangelism in our churches, I believe there are at least 5 things that we must do.
1. Model Evangelism Yourself
You cannot expect your people to do something that you yourself are not doing. It is as simple as that.
You can only lead people as far as you have gone yourself. If you are not actively seeking evangelistic opportunities, your people won’t either.
This should be a given, but I know this is something I need to get better at myself.
It is easy to get so consumed in the busy work of being a pastor that we neglect our own obligation to reach out to people who are not part of our church.
2. Preach Evangelism
It surprises me how many churches desire to grow but never preach a sermon about how important it is for Christians to actually reach out to others.
Why don’t we hear more sermons on how important it is for Christians to invite friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers to church?If you want your church to be more evangelistic, tell them to be. Preach from the many passages of scripture where people introduce others to Jesus. Then, tell your people that life and death are literally in the balance for them to do the same!
If Heaven and Hell are real, we had better start acting it. Why aren’t we doing more to rescue those headed for eternal separation from God?
3. Create Environments Where Non-Believers Are Welcomed And Expected
In your preaching, don’t just address Christians. Always assume that there are skeptics, non-believers, or people who don’t know what to believe in the room.
If you always talk in a way that assumes everyone is a Christian, then people who aren’t Christians will know this isn’t a place for them. However, if you regularly address those in the room who are not Christians or are on the fence, you accomplish two things:
- You communicate that people who aren’t Christians (yet) are welcome at your church.
- You create a place where people can feel comfortable inviting their non-christian neighbors because they know you will speak to them too.
When you preach about something that is confusing or “weird” in the Bible, address it. Don’t just assume that the average person accepts miracles in the Bible or other seemingly outrageous concepts such as animal sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
When you are doing things in church that the average Christian takes for granted (communion, baptism, etc.), explain it to those who may not be familiar with it.
Here is the bottom line: People will not invite other people to your church if they don’t think it is a safe place for them.
If they are worried that their coworker will come to church for the first time and hear a sermon that has no application to their lives whatsoever, they simply won’t invite them.
However, if they know that you address people in their coworker’s situation every single week, there will be one less fear in the way of them to make the invite.
4. Create Good Excuses For People to Invite Others to Church
This one seems obvious to me, but again, many churches don’t do this.
Create a good excuse for people to invite people. Maybe it’s as simple as having a block party with free food after the services. Maybe you have an attraction bounce houses for young families with kids. Maybe you have a fun event a car show or carnival. Maybe you just take advantage of natural times to come to church Christmas and Easter.
Whatever you do, circle a day on your calendar and promote it. Tell your people that you want them to invite people that day.It sounds really simple, but again, many churches don’t do it. They have events, but the events are for members and fellowship. Clearly tell people that you want them to invite people to these events. Give them simple tools invite cards to hand out. You will be surprised how much this works to introduce new people to your church.
5. Celebrate Evangelism
When someone comes to your church and gives their life to Christ, celebrate it! When people get baptized, celebrate it! When someone in your church invites someone, celebrate it! When you hear about spiritual conversations that your people are having with friends or co-workers, celebrate it! When attendance is up, celebrate it!
Whatever gets celebrated in your church will get repeated. Celebrating evangelism shows everyone that this is what your church values. If the angels in Heaven celebrate whenever a lost person is found, it might be a good idea if we did too.
Make a big deal about it, because it is a big deal!
Will You Do This?
Building an evangelistically focused church starts with you. If you model evangelism, preach evangelism, create evangelistic environments, promote evangelistic opportunities, and celebrate evangelism… your church will naturally become an evangelistic church.
Some of you are already creating a culture of evangelism in your church. Great job. Don’t give up. Keep pushing the kingdom of God forward.
Some of you are part of a church that has long forgotten its evangelical roots. It is not too late to begin turning things around. God still wants to use your church to advance His kingdom.
This is not about the size of your church. It’s about the size of our mission to make disciples of all nations for Jesus Christ.
Let’s do this together. Let’s build a culture of evangelism in our churches so that more people may find the hope, peace, love, forgiveness, and purpose that we have all found in Christ.